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Correspondent

GROTON — For the second time in his career, the town’s chief of police has decided to retire. But this time, due to warnings from his doctor, it’s going to be for real.

After seven years on the job as Groton’s top law enforcement official, Chief Robert Mulhern will be hanging up his gun belt, perhaps as early as September.

Although no firm date was set, Mulhern announced his intention to go into retirement at a meeting of the Board of Selectmen held last month. At the time, he said that his decision was based on the advice of his doctor.

Due to cardiac-related problems, his doctor told him, it would be best for him to seek a less-stressful lifestyle than the management and law enforcement responsibilities of a modern chief of police.

“I think the position of chief of police has changed over the years,” explained Mulhern. “Much more is expected of a chief nowadays. A chief has to be more involved in community- and police-related issues. I think technology is the other key that a chief needs to keep up with. Technology just keeps changing all the time.”

Currently a resident of Lunenburg, Mulhern grew up in Hamden, Conn., where law enforcement ran in his family. An uncle was a captain and detective of police in New Haven and his father was also a policeman. In addition, all three of Mulhern’s sons are police officer.

Mulhern, 61, began his own career in law enforcement following a hitch in the U.S. Air Force. He went back to school for a degree in law enforcement, and later another in administration and public policy, before hitting the streets in 1970 as a beat patrolman in his native Hamden, a city of 53,000.

“I was promoted through the ranks to the rank of captain while I was still on the Hamden force,” Mulhern said, remaining with the Hamden force until he retired for the first time in 1991. Realizing that such an early retirement would not be permanent, he attended classes again, this time specializing in school security before taking a job as chief of police for the Orono Police Department in Maine.

That lasted until 2000 when Mulhern, attracted by the location and the fact that he had relatives in the area, applied for and won the position of police chief in Groton seven years ago.

“I never had any desire to move on and serve in larger cities,” said Mulhern. “I was happy in a smaller town department like the one in Hamden. What attracted me to a smaller town was the quality of life and it was easier to work within the community. In some ways, it was more of a challenge than working in a larger department.”

Now, as he prepares to retire for real, Mulhern said he can look back with satisfaction at the job he has done.

“You always come in with the goal of improving what there is and moving the department forward,” Mulhern said. “That’s what we set out to accomplish and I think we’ve done that. I think we’ve expanded our community policing program here and made a change in our philosophy. We believe in our program and support it; that’s the key.

“Also, you always have to be ready for whatever policing requirements the community may need,” Mulhern said. “You have to be able to handle things in a very professional manner and try to develop a team that can do that. We’ve done that. We’ve brought in some experienced people along with newer people and formed a group that has performed very well over the last seven years.”

A big help in allowing him to achieve his goals, said the chief, was a cooperative and helpful group of town administrators.

“My working relationship with town officials and the Board of Selectmen was always excellent,” reported Mulhern. “The selectmen gave me goals that they wanted to see achieved and they worked with me and gave me the resources and money to get the job done.”

“I enjoyed very much working with Chief Mulhern and felt he did an excellent job,” said Selectman Fran Dillon. “I was involved with him, working through the last contract negotiations with both the dispatchers and the Groton Patrolman’s Association and he was extremely helpful, knowledgeable and professional and has done a very good job with the Police Department. He came in after the department had gone through a rather difficult time and has developed a very good, professional Police Department.”

“I think his tenure in Groton was a very successful one,” said Selectmen Chairman Peter Cunningham. “He brought a level of professionalism to the administration of the Police Department. He was also a strong advocate for community policing, which I think is the type of policing that was appropriate for a town like Groton. I think he did a real good job.”

With a target retirement date of some time in September, Mulhern had hoped to complete his obligation by serving as chief for the remaining year of his contract. Instead, he will spend the next several months winding up his affairs and helping the Board of Selectmen find his replacement.

“I think that the Search Committee is going to be looking for somebody who has embraced the community,” said Mulhern. “A chief has to be someone who believes in education for himself and his people. But whoever is chosen, I think they’re going to enjoy themselves because Groton is a great place to live and work.”

For his part, Mulhern said that he will never forget his years in Groton, which he has characterized as a “dream position.”

“I’ve enjoyed working as the chief of police in Groton but I’m looking forward to a relaxing retirement, too,” admitted Mulhern. “I’m looking forward to playing a lot of golf and baby-sitting my six grandchildren.”